Re: THEORY: [CONLANG] OT Syntax
|From:||Marcus Smith <smithma@...>|
|Date:||Monday, November 27, 2000, 7:59|
And Rosta wrote:
> > I find Chomsky's strong claim that all movement is morphologically
> > motivated to be the most misguided portion of the theory. I think I can
> > show that there is movement in Chickasaw that does not relate to any
> > morphological feature at all.
>I can't see any Minimalist being persuaded by your counterexample.
> There are
>too many ways of circumventing counterexamples. After all, this is a "program"
>not a theory, so it's not even counterexemplifiable yet. The basic tenets
>of Minimalism have the status of axioms rather than hypotheses.
> > The inability of native speakers to make reliable judgements has always
> > been to me an argument against the type of UG Chomskyans believe in. If we
> > do have such highly principled and constrained grammars in our minds, why
> > do people disagree about them so much?
>Because we don't have uncontaminated introspective access to them. For
>everyone their introspection is contaminated by a much more salient awareness
>of usage patterns (what is and isn't normally said), and untrained people
>probably can't make grammaticality judgements (in contrast to felicity
>judgements) at all.
Untrained speakers have no problem judging "Who sees you?" to be
felicitous. Yet it is very unlikely that they have uttered or heard that
sentence many times in their lives, if ever. It is quite easy to construct
examples that go against usage patterns, but are not difficult to judge.
This is an issue that field workers have to deal with in trying to elicit
paradigms. (People get confused on how they are supposed to translate these
atypical sentences into their languages.)
Trained linguists aren't much better at offering grammaticality judgements.
I can't believe that you read the syntax literature out there and agree
with all the judgements. I certainly do not. In one article I read about a
week and a half ago, I disagreed with all but one of the judgements, and
four of my classmates (all the native English speakers in the class) agreed
with me. That, of course, is an extreme example, but it is not unusual for
me to disagree with a large portions of the judgements, especially when the
author comes from MIT. (They seem to have their own dialect over there.)
I believe that it is too easy for a linguist to be influenced by his/her
pet theory. Judgements in difficult situations are easily swayed when you
know the desired outcome. Other linguists may not be as biased as the
author, but they are biased due to the fact that they have a rough idea of
what the "standard" theory should predict. That is why I *always* get the
judgements of non-linguists for the few papers I write relating to English.
Linguistics is the only science that allows the researcher to create, test,
and evaluate the data on his/her own. I think the field would be better off
if we used more consultants in our work. Phoneticists, Phonologists, and
Psycholinguists use non-linguists, it's about time Syntacticians do the same.
>Chomskyan methods have revealed extraordinarily subtle yet elegant structures
>at work in syntax, which convinces me that their results are not a kind
>of unreal artefact of their methodology.
I agree that it is not an artifact of methodology. But there are other
> > > I suppose if you're interested in Bernard Comrie-level description, it
> > > doesn't matter. But if you wanted to get embroiled in really really tiny
> > > but really really crucial details of binding constraints, say, then it'd
> > > be a nightmare.
> > I have to disagree here. I definitely don't do the Comrie-level work, but
> > have had very little difficulty working out such details as whether or not
> > Chickasaw verbs raise overtly or not; whether it must have Agr
> > projections; if it obeys the binding conditions; etc. Fine, so I can't get
> > reliable judgements on such issues as really bizarre binding situations --
> > but so what? At this point, theories of syntax only deal well with
> > European languages, Japanese, Chinese, and a few others; the languages of
> > Africa, America, Australia, and espcially Oceania cannot be adequately
> > dealt with. And many of the principles syntacticians hold dear are wrong
> > in the larger picture. For example, the Zapotecan languages (as well as
> > many "non-configurational" languages) blatantly and frequently violate
> > the binding theory (especially Principle C of the GB tradition). What good
> > is it to work on the fine details, when the theory we assume does not hold
> > cross-linguistically and must be modified?
>Here my personal answer is that the problem is with trying to attempt a
>universalist theory of language -- one that accounts for language in general.
>I would advocate a parochialist approach; you consider each language in
>isolation. Yes, it's true that almost all languages are too ill-understood
>for us to have reached the level of detail I describe, but if that level of
>detail is what you aspire to, then relying on the judgements of others is a
"When you lose a language, it's like
dropping a bomb on a museum."
-- Kenneth Hale